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Slices and Lumps

Division and Aggregation in Law and Life

How things are divided up or pieced together matters. Half a bridge is of no use at all. Conversely, many things would do more good if they could be divided up differently: Perhaps you would prefer a job that involves a third less work and a third less pay or a car that materializes only when needed and is priced accordingly? Difficulties in “slicing” and “lumping” shape nearly every facet of how we live and work—and a great deal of law and policy as well.

Lee Anne Fennell explores how both types of challenges—carving out useful slices and assembling useful lumps—surface in myriad contexts, from hot button issues like conservation and eminent domain to developments in the sharing economy to personal struggles over work, money, time, diet, and exercise. Yet the significance of configuration is often overlooked, leading to missed opportunities for improving our lives. With a technology-fueled entrepreneurial explosion underway that is dividing goods, services, and jobs in novel ways, and as urbanization and environmental threats raise the stakes for assembling resources and cooperation, this is an especially exciting and crucial time to confront questions of slicing and lumping. The future of the city, the workplace, the marketplace, and the environment all turn on matters of configuration, as do the prospects for more effective legal doctrines, for better management of finances and health, and more.  This book reveals configuration’s power and potential—as a unifying concept and as a focus of public and private innovation. 

320 pages | 1 halftone, 7 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2019

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Economics


“‘If you were a superhero, what would be your superpower? Flying? Invisibility?’ You’d do well to choose configuration, and Fennell illustrates this with examples both goofy and profound: a dog that requires half the walking and provides half the affection, an aggregation of all the too-small parking spaces one has sighted. The book is exquisitely clear and gives illuminating new perspectives on the problems created for society by the lumpiness of some things and how we think about dividing them under the law.”

Leo Katz, University of Pennsylvania Law School

“Fennell zeroes in on the problem of lumpiness in law and life: the situation in which a desired thing does not quite come in the amount that suits our exact needs or preferences. The problem in some cases is excess capacity, in some a desire that can’t be met without it being bundled with undesirable elements. Slices and Lumps is wide-ranging, inventive, and full of cool examples and great insights. Fennell is a master theorist and an excellent storyteller.”

Richard C. Schragger, University of Virginia School of Law

"This is a wonderfully inventive and imaginative book. . . .  Highly recommended."

H. Oberdiek | Choice

"The framework of aggregation and division that Lee Fennell develops in Slices and Lumps is both elegant and encompassing. Through the simple device of questioning how ideas and individuals are grouped together, or split apart, Fennell is able to explain and challenge concepts from diverse areas of law."

Sean P. Sullivan, University of Iowa

"...a very intriguing book."

The Enlightened Economist

Table of Contents

One / Surveying Lumpiness
Two / Assembly and Division
Three / Lumpy Goals, Segmented Resources
Four / Increments and Incentives
Five / Intrapersonal Dilemmas
Six / Saving and Spending
Seven / Work, Play, Risk
Eight / Buy, Own, Split
Nine / At Home
Ten / In the City
Eleven / Law’s Cliffs
Twelve / Legal Bundles

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